Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus. —Acts 4:13 (ESV)
Early in the book of Acts, Peter and John heal a lame man who was begging outside of the temple mid-morning. Understandably, a crowd of witnesses were amazed and Peter and John take the opportunity to speak to the people about Jesus. At some point as evening approached, religious leaders became aware and took issue with these teachings about Jesus. Since it was too late to interrogate Peter and John, they were thrown in jail until the next day.
The next day arrives and a “who’s who” of religious leaders gather, including the high priest, Annas. Peter and John stand in the center and are questioned. Acts reports that Peter, ‘filled with Holy Spirit’, answers them by boldly sharing the gospel message about Jesus, supporting it with the Scriptures in which the religious leaders are so well versed. Then comes today’s text: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished.” The priests and elders and scribes could not believe the boldness with which Peter and John conducted themselves. They spoke confidently of Jesus from the Scriptures, and they were ‘uneducated’ and ‘common’ men. How could men without formal training speak so well? Two answers: (1) they were ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’, which in Acts, usually enables boldness to speak the gospel; and (2) as the leaders recognized, Peter and John had been with Jesus.
Acts 4:13 does not encourage Christians to avoid formal education. Rather, it emphasizes that Peter and John’s eloquence was God-given and Spirit-inspired. The Apostle Paul, who was well-educated, also speaks boldly in the book of Acts through the Spirit’s empowerment. As you fulfill God’s call on your life, have confidence, not in your education or credentials, but in God’s ability to speak and work through you. Seek opportunities to grow and learn, yes. And promote biblical education. But let your confidence rest not in yourself or experience, but in God.